, Newburyport, MA

December 27, 2012

Four Plum Island homes uninhabitable

Officials brace for next high tide tonight

Dave Rogers
Newburyport Daily News

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PLUM ISLAND — Four Annapolis Way homes were deemed uninhabitable by the town's building inspector earlier today after a surprisingly powerful winter storm washed away much of the sand separating the structures from the ocean.

One of the homes, located at 31 Annapolis Way, has been so badly compromised that yellow tape has been placed across the front door and its occupants and owners barred from collecting any of their belongings. 

At around 3 p.m., 31 Annapolis Way co-owner Steve Bresnahan was in his driveway yesterday looking at the house he could not enter. 

"It's an absolute nightmare," said the co-owner of the house, Steve Bresnahan, who was in his driveway yesterday at around 3 p.m. assessing the property that he was barred from entering.

Occupants of the three other homes — 29, 35 and 37 Annapolis Way — will be allowed to pick up belongings under the supervision of town officials, according to Newbury building inspector Sam Joslin.

The powerful storm, which dumped several inches of rain on the region beginning Wednesday evening, caused extensive flooding especially during this morning's high tide, temporarily closing Plum Island Turnpike and Plum Island Boulevard. Plum Island Center was closed to the public for several hours as well. 

During a pair of emergency meetings held at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m., selectmen met with state Sen. Bruce Tarr, who represents Newbury, to discuss what could be done to prepare the island for the next high tide, scheduled for roughly 11 p.m. and what can be done in the near future to save the houses from sliding into the ocean.

In between the meetings, Tarr and other officials walked along the beach assessing damage. At least two of the houses suffered significant damage as the ocean ripped open gaping holes in the structures, sucking out furniture in the process. 

Police officials in both Newbury and Newburyport are expected to release a Code Red emergency telephone call alerting Plum Island residents that Plum Island Turnpike may be flooded during tonight's high tide, essentially stranding them on the barrier island for several hours. Police officials are also predicting that Plum Island Boulevard will be closed during periods of tonight's high tide. 

Newburyport Department of Public Service workers are on call in case tonight's high tide causes enough flooding to compromise the island's sewer and water services. Should a large enough breach occur, the DPS is prepared to shut off service to affected sections of the island to prevent a massive failure of the system, according to Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday.